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In law, recrimination is a defense in an action for divorce in which the accused party makes a similar accusation against the plaintiff. In plain English, it is a lawyer's way of saying "You too."

Recrimination was generally considered by family law experts to be one of the most dysfunctional and illogical aspects of the old fault-based divorce system in common law countries. For example, in the context of a marriage where the marital relationship has collapsed to the point that both spouses are openly committing adultery, the assertion by either spouse of this defense would prevent a divorce even though the family unit is clearly no longer capable of functioning.

As a result, the defense was formally abolished by statute in many jurisdictions when they converted to a no-fault divorce regime.

New York law is one of very few jurisdictions that retain this defense.[1]

The corollary principle of comparative rectitude ameliorated the effects of the recrimination doctrine by holding that if the offenses were of entirely different orders of seriousness, the spouse guilty of the lesser fault was still entitled to relief.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ N.Y. Dom. Rel. L. § 171, found at New York State website, accessed October 27, 2014.